It’s rare that a week goes by without the subject of financial SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) cropping up in my conversations with advisers and planners.
For the uninitiated, SEO is the practice of employing techniques to push your website to the top of search engine rankings, for relevant search terms. In other words, getting on to the first page of Google; effectively the only search engine in town.
Everyone wants to be on the first page of Google; right?
Yes. In theory.
But it’s more complicated than that, which is why I’m reluctant to give a binary answer.
In years gone by SEO was pretty simple; add large amounts of keyword rich (the words or phrases you want to be found for) text to your website, get as many links as possible and Bob’s your uncle, your site would soar up the search results.
However, as Google’s algorithm became more sophisticated, with updates such as the wonderfully named Penguin and Panda, it’s become far harder to game the system.
That’s one of the reasons I’m nervous about advisers spending large amounts of money on financial SEO.
Another is simply that the number of people searching Google for relevant terms is relatively low. Most advisers want to be ranked well for relevant, local, search terms, for example:
- Independent financial adviser Nottingham
- Pension advice Birmingham
- Financial planner Brighton
How many people searched those terms over the last month? Thousands? Nope
110, 30, and 10 respectively.
Finally, if you do spend money on financial SEO there’s no guarantee it will work, and if it does, the boost is (potentially) only temporary. A Google update could come along that wipes out your hard work. In effect making it a massive game of snakes and ladders, that you play blindfolded.
It makes very little sense to spend significant amounts on SEO; if someone shows me evidence to the contrary I’m all ears.
In fact, to answer the first question, if I were an adviser or planner, I’d spend nothing on SEO. There are far better ways to spend your limited marketing budget; allocate it to SEO and I’d place a fair-sized bet that your budget and patience will run out before you see any results.
So, you can forget about any financial SEO?
Nope; I did say it was complicated!
It’s certainly welcome to rank on the first page of Google for local search terms. That means starting with the basics yourself, which cost nothing except a bit of time.
Here are at least nine things you can do immediately:
1. Submit your site map to the major search engines
An Extensible Markup Language (XML) sitemap is essentially a file that lists every page of your website. This tells search engines several important things, such as the overall structure of your site, plus the importance of a particular page in relation to the others.
2. Add unique content regularly to your website
Hardly a blog goes by without me reiterating that content is king.
No one knows for sure how Google calibrates its algorithm (and beware of people who say they do) but there’s little doubt that unique content, added regularly to your website, will work well.
The more high-quality, unique content, you add to your website, the better.
3. Include keywords in your content
Simply put, this means including the keywords that you want to be found for in the text on your website.
Don’t go overboard though, the content needs to be naturally written and easy to read. At the end of the day, you are writing for your website visitor, not Google.
4. Complete the page title
You will stand a better chance of your site ranking well if you tell Google what the page is about.
This means downloading a suitable SEO plugin to your website (Yoast, for example, if you use WordPress) and completing the key sections for each page. Probably most important of these is the page title.
It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. As an example, your homepage might currently be called ‘Home | Name of your firm’. While that’s accurate, it doesn’t tell Google what the page is really about. A better alternative might be ‘Independent Financial Advice, Nottingham | Name of your firm’ or something similar.
How do you find your current page title? Simple; just hover your cursor over the page tab in your browser and you will see the page title appear.
5. Add page descriptions
Whilst this won’t help your SEO it will help your audience understand what each page is about.
The page description does what it says on the tin. If you fail to set complete it, Google will simply populate it with the first few lines of text from the relevant page on your website. That’s probably not overly helpful to the online searcher.
To illustrate how the page title and description should be completed here’s an example showing the page title and description for our homepage:
A quick word about page titles and descriptions. If you are completing these, make sure you follow the best practice in terms of length; more of that another day.
6. Seek links back from relevant websites
Backlinks are exactly what they sound like; links back to your website from other sources. These are important as they indicate that your content carries authority, and quality.
Getting other websites to link back to you may sound difficult, but it’s a simple case of building a relationship. For example, last month we invited Chris Budd to write a guest blog for us. Not only did he create a piece of interesting content for our audience to read, but his article included a link to the Ovation Finance website, earning them a backlink, and boosting their SEO.
7. Get some Google reviews
Most people are influenced in some way by online reviews, and Google is no different. Having reviews will signal relevance and boost your position in the search results. It’s not only Google reviews that are taken into account either, having reviews on other third-party review sites will do nothing but good things for your SEO.
8. Claim your Google My Business profile
Not only does this help you dominate the search results when someone Google’s your business name, there’s also a school of thought that it aids your SEO efforts.
If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business profile, it’s free and easy to do by clicking here.
9. Add alt-tags to your images
Again, this is easy to do in your content management system and will help Google understand what the image represents.
So, back to the original question.
How much should you spend on financial SEO? For most advisers and planners my answer would be nothing; if for no other reason than budget is limited, local search volumes are low and there are (in my view) better ways to spend the money.